Off The Ball: Summer move would kill off National League apathy
Colm O’Rourke wrote in the Sunday Independent that the GAA’s motto is ‘put the games on and they will come’. I couldn’t agree more.
The National League is the best competition in the GAA calendar by some distance. The problem with this great competition is the disregard shown to it by the GAA, and by inter-county managers. Whether managers like it or not the attitude remains – ‘ah, it’s only the league’. I listened to some post-match interviews Dave McIntyre did at the weekend for Monday’s show. Here is a flavour of what managers of the top three teams in the country said, whether they realised it at the time or not.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice said things like “not a huge pile (of work) done”, “preparation was as good as it could have been expected” and “there’s a big picture there”. Kerry only returned from their team holiday in Florida three weeks ago.
Jim Gavin said: “For most teams it (the league) can be a bit of a stormy sea”, “there’s a sense of unknown about these games” and “haven’t seen the players for many months on the field”.
Stephen Rochford said: “We came up against a Cork team with a good bit of work done, possibly more than us” and “Look, Dave, this is the league and we’ve six more games”.
The three managers pretty much disregarded the first round game of football’s second flagship competition. I’m not criticising them by the way, it’s only the start of February after all.
I’ve said it many times before – the league should be played during the summer and be called the championship – four divisions where teams, at a similar standard, guaranteed seven championship games against each other. Imagine the interest in that competition.
The provincial championships could be played during the month of March. A two-point head start in the league could be awarded to the winners as an incentive to keep the prestige of these popular competitions intact. Thousands turn up for meaningless January competitions – don’t tell me playing the provincials in March wouldn’t be a massive hit.
Under my proposal, the inter-county season would be shortened to six months, March-August, freeing up valuable time for university and club games. The most important factor is that players get seven guaranteed championship games, every two weeks, against teams at their level and during the summer. That is exactly what they want.
Another important factor is not to scare the living daylights out of Congress delegates with a complicated restructure. All I’m proposing is to flip exactly what is there around. To borrow an old GAA cliché – keep it simple lads!